The next morning, Shinkir and Kri woke to a door opening; a pair of rather short, nervous Keine Frineir came in, their large fox ears flicking expectantly, on the defense as they quickly placed food on the table before joining two Kierr that waited at the door.  The opening shut and the bewildered pair were left to their own thoughts.

Kri sat up, throwing her legs over the side of the bed.  She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and then stretched.  "I'm not sure about you, but that's the best I've slept in a long time."  She yawned then shook herself briefly and stood, stretching again as she walked over to inspect the contents of the table.

Several types of sliced breads were spread out on a platter, surrounding small cups of jammed fruit.  There were two blunt spreaders for the jam resting next to a pair of pitchers, one with some type of juice and the other filled with iced water.

Shinkir took a little longer to crawl out of bed and make her way to the table; the pair sat and looked down at the meal before them.

Kri was the first one to say anything.  "This is just too weird."  She stated, tentatively picking up a piece of light crusted bread.

"Weird?"  Shinkir raised her head a little, looking up at her companion.

“Yeah, odd.  You haven’t had much experience outside of your forests,” Kri began as she slowly spread a rich, red jam across her bread, “but this is the first time that I’ve seen anyone, anyone treat, or even speak of, a Shabenay with something other than blind fear and hatred.  It makes me wonder."  She took a bite out of her bread and chewed thoughtfully.

"The Shamien respect the Shabenay," Shinkir said, "but they don't fear us."

They continued eating in silence.  Kri seemed tense and uncertain.  It had been a long time since she was in a situation where she didn't hold all the cards.  Curiosity overwhelmed her feelings of uncertainty.  Being treated civilly threw her off base and it was a pleasant surprise, but it made her suspicious; wondering what someone could possibly want with a pair of Shabenay.  Shinkir was also slightly curious, but she settled to waiting and watching, content to let things unfold and react accordingly.

It was not long before the door opposite the one they had entered the day before opened and the ferret face of the female Tynomai appeared.  She stepped in, followed closely by a group of Kierr, who dwarfed the Tynomai's slight frame.  She nodded to the Shabenay in greeting.  "I hope you are well rested and fed," she began, "we are going to the bathing rooms now.  Again, I warn that any attempts at escape will be dealt with swiftly.  Come, I'm certain that you'll enjoy getting the tangles and grit out of your hair and off your body."  She turned and stepped past the Kierr.  The Shabenay hesitated; the Tynomai looked back and beckoned them forward as she continued on.  Still uncertain the pair moved after her, passing nervously between the four Kierr who fell in step behind them after shutting the door.

They discovered that their room was at the end of a hall, which started narrow, but broadened and became more elaborate as it ran towards the main part of the building.  Large, ornate doors covered the left hand side of the hall and, at first, small windows showed glimpses of the early morning sunlight outside.  As the hall widened the windows became larger, almost touching ceiling to floor in some instances.  There was a sudden opening, a second hallway that dove into the depths of the large building, lighted by the color that poured through stained glass.  Splashes of color stretched across the pale stone floor and over the thick rug that lay on the central part of the hall.  Kri paused a moment to study the window, but was nudged forward by one of the Kierr.  She'd just have to look at it when they came back.

After taking a turn into a second hallway and opening a door they were lead down a small flight of stairs into a large, tiled room, whose walls were slick and the air heavy with warm moisture that wrapped around them and clung to skin and clothing.  There were several sunken baths that surrounded a much larger pool, which steamed with warm water.

Kri thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity at a bath, and at that a warm one, though less thrilled at having to be under the watchful eye of the Kierr while she took it.  Shinkir was indifferent, having grown up primarily among the Shamien she had no qualms about being naked in front of others.

 

Clean, dry, and fitted with soft, floor-length robes the Tynomai woman directed the two Shabenay to a large book-lined study.  The pair was ushered inside.  Kri looked confused as the door closed behind them, both the Tynomai and their Kierr guards had left them.

"Shabenay, eihen kishrah," the voice came from the large chair that faced the window.

Shinkir was surprise.  "[Who are you]?"

"[Tsumajh Kisday is my name.  I own this estate.]"  He replied.

"[Are you Shabenay]?"

A soft laugh answered.  "You should know that without even asking, or have the Shabenay lost more than the good will of the other races?"  The voice's owner finally came out from behind the chair, another Tynomai.  This one slightly taller and having a more defined facial mask, his fur was more golden than brown, his lips were curled in an amused smirk.

Shinkir flushed, embarrassed, Kri's brow was furrowed, not understanding what either had said until the Tynomai broke back into common tongue.

"It seems your companion never learned Maylehin, a pity.  It is nearly lost and is almost a dead language."  He bowed slightly to the pair.  "I am Tsumajh Kisday, overseer of this, the Kistau estate, some four generations in my family."

"What do you want with us?"  Kri asked flatly.

"If you really want to know, I'm interested in the preservation of your race.  I was actually a little disappointed that Iren didn't manage my preferred pairing, but you Shabenay can be quite difficult to keep tabs on, and, it seems, pop up where you're least expected."  He cocked his head and looked closer at Kri, his eyes jumping from her face to her hand.  "What is your name?"

"Kri."  She replied.

His dark eyes narrowed slightly as he studied her.  His attention unnerved her and she rubbed her left hand nervously.  Suddenly she straightened and dropped her hand; regaining her confidence she looked him squarely in the eye.  "Why?"

"No reason," he replied, looking away as he shifted his attention back to Shinkir.  "So this is Shinkir of Ker's line, the last of the noble guard's bloodline, as I am told."

"How-"

Tsumajh Kisday grinned, "You were hand-picked to be here, Shinkir.  I am quite interested to learn what you know of your grandfather."

Shinkir gaped.

"You're not afraid."  Kri stated.

He turned back to Kri.  “Why would I be?”

"You're in a room, alone, with two Shabenay, who wouldn't be?"

He smiled knowingly.  "I am alone in a room with two teenage girls, not monsters or beasts.  You may have an amazing gift, but it doesn't make you dangerous.  Besides, what could harming me accomplish?"

"Rumor doesn't support our kind as rational," she replied.

"That it does not, but you'll find that I don't hold many of the common beliefs about your kind.  You may go now; Desta will guide you back to your room.  Certainly you’re still exhausted from your journey.  I will see you again at dinner."  He turned away and returned to his seat.

The door opened.